Search Results: "alee"

22 April 2021

Shirish Agarwal: The Great Train Robbery

I had a twitter fight few days back with a gentleman and the article is a result of that fight. Sadly, I do not know the name of the gentleman as he goes via a psuedo name and then again I ve not taken permission from him to quote him in either way. So I will just state the observations I was able to make from the conversations we had. As people who read this blog regularly would know, I am and have been against Railway Privatization which is happening in India. And will be sharing some of the case studies from other countries as to how it panned out for them.

UK Railways
How Privatization Fails : Railways
The Above video is by a gentleman called Shaun who basically shared that privatization as far as UK is concerned is nothing but monopolies and while there are complex reasons for the same, the design of the Railways is such that it will always be a monopoly structure. At the most what you can do is have several monopolies but that is all that can happen. The idea of competition just cannot happen. Even the idea that subsidies will be less or/and trains will run on time is far from fact. Both of these facts have been checked and found to be truthful by It is and argued that UK is small and perhaps it doesn t have the right conditions. It is probably true but still we do deserve to have a glance at the UK railway map.
UK railway map with operatorsUK railway map with operators
The above map is copyrighted to Map Marketing where you could see it today . As can be seen above most companies had their own specified areas. Now if you had looked at the facts then you would have seen that UK fares have been higher. In fact, an oldish article from Metro (a UK publication) shares the same. In fact, UK nationalized its railways effectively as many large rail operators were running in red. Even Scotland is set to nationalised back in March 2022. Remember this is a country which hasn t seen inflation go upwards of 5% in nearly a decade. The only outlier was 2011 where they indeed breached the 5% mark. So from this, what we see is Private Gains and Private Gains Public Losses perhaps seem fit. But then maybe we didn t use the right example. Perhaps Japan would be better. They have bullet trains while UK is still thinking about it. (HS2).

Japanese Railway Below is the map of Japanese Railway
Railway map of Japan with private ownership courtesy Wikimedia commons
Japan started privatizing its railway in 1987 and to date it has not been fully privatized. And on top of it, amount as much as 24 trillion of the long-term JNR debt was shouldered by the government at the expense of taxpayers of Japan while also reducing almost 1/4th of it employees. To add to it, while some parts of Japanese Railways did make profits, many of them made profits by doing large-scale non-railway business mostly real estate of land adjacent to railway stations. In many cases, it seems this went all the way up to 60% of the revenue. The most profitable has been the Shinkansen though. And while it has been profitable, it has not been without safety scandals over the years, the biggest in recent years was the 2005 Amagasaki derailment. What was interesting to me was the Aftermath, while the Wikipedia page doesn t share much, I had read at the time and probably could be found how a lot of ordinary people stood up to the companies in a country where it is a known fact that most companies are owned by the Yakuza. And this is a country where people are loyal to their corporation or company no matter what. It is a strange culture to west and also here in India where people change jobs on drop of hat, although nowadays we have record unemployment. So perhaps Japan too does not meet our standard as it doesn t do competition with each other but each is a set monopoly in those regions. Also how much subsidy is there or not is not really transparent.

U.S. Railways Last, but not the least I share the U.S. Railway map. This is provided by A Mr. Tom Alison on reddit on channel maporn. As the thread itself is archived and I do not know the gentleman concerned, nor have taken permission for the map, hence sharing the compressed version

U.S. Railway lines with the different owners
Now the U.S. Railways is and has always been peculiar as unlike the above two the U.S. has always been more of a freight network. Probably, much of it has to do that in the 1960 s when oil was cheap, the U.S. made zillions of roadways and romanticized the road trip and has been doing it ever since. Also the creation of low-cost airlines definitely didn t help the railways to have more passenger services, in fact the opposite. There are and have been smaller services and attempts of privatization in both New Zealand and Australia and both have been failures. Please see papers in that regard. My simple point is this, as can be seen above, there have been various attempts at privatization of railways and most of them have been a mixed bag. The only one which comes close to what we think as good is Japanese but that also used a lot of public debt which we don t know what will happen on next. Also for higher-speed train services like a bullet train or whatever, you need to direct, no hair pen bends. In fact, a good talk on the topic is the TBD podcast which while it talks about hyperloop, the same questions is and would be asked if were to do in India. Another thing to be kept in mind is that the Japanese have been exceptional builders and this is because they have been forced to. They live in a seismically active zone which made Fukushima disaster a reality but at the same time, their buildings are earthquake-resistant. Standard Disclaimer The above is a simplified version of things. I could have added in financial accounts but that again has no set pattern. For e.g. some Railways use accrual, some use cash and some use hybrid. I could have also shared in either the guage or electrification but all have slightly different standards, although uniguage is something that all Railways aspire for and electrification is again something that all Railways want although in many cases it just isn t economically feasible.

Indian Railways Indian Railways itself recently made the move from Cash to Accrual couple of years back. In-between for a couple of years, it was hybrid. The sad part is and was you can now never measure against past performance in the old way because it is so different. Hence, whether the Railways will be making a loss or a profit, we would come to know only much later. Also, most accountants don t know the new system well, so it is gonna take more time, how much unknown. Sadly, what GOI did a few years back is merge the Railway budget into the Union Budget. Of course, the excuse they gave is too many pressures of new trains, while the truth is, by doing this, they decreased transparency about the whole thing. For e.g. for the last few years, the only state which had significant work being done is in U.P. (Uttar Pradesh) and a bit in Goa, although that is has been protested time and again. I being from the neighborly state of Maharashtra , and have been there several times. Now it does feels all like a dream, going to Goa :(.

Covid news Now before I jump on the news, I should share the movie Virus (2019) which was made by the talented Aashiq Abu. Even though, am not a Malayalee, I still have enjoyed many of his movies simply because he is a terrific director and Malayalam movies, at least most of them have English subtitles and lot of original content.. Interestingly, unlike the first couple of times when I saw it a couple of years back. The first time I saw it, I couldn t sleep a wink for a week. Even the next time, it was heavy. I had shared the movie with mum, and even she couldn t see it in one go. It is and was that powerful Now maybe because we are headlong in the pandemic, and the madness is all around us. There are two terms that helped me though understand a great deal of what is happening in the movie, the first term was altered sensorium which has been defined here. The other is saturation or to be more precise oxygen saturation . This term has also entered the Indian twitter lexicon quite a bit as India has started running out of oxygen. Just today Delhi High Court did an emergency hearing on the subject late at night. Although there is much to share about the mismanagement of the center, the best piece on the subject has been by Miss Priya Ramani. Yup, the same lady who has won against M.J. Akbar and this is when Mr. Akbar had 100 lawyers for this specific case. It would be interesting to see what happens ahead. There are however few things even she forgot in her piece, For e.g. reverse migration i.e. from urban to rural migration started again. Two articles from different entities sharing a similar outlook.Sadly, the right have no empathy or feeling for either the poor or the sick. Even the labor minister Santosh Gangwar s statement that around 1.04 crores were the only people who walked back home. While there is not much data, however some work/research has been done on migration to cites that the number could be easily 10 times as much. And this was in the lockdown of last year. This year, again the same issue has re-surfaced and migrants learning lessons started leaving cities. And I m ashamed to say I think they are doing the right thing. Most State Governments have not learned lessons nor have they done any work to earn the trust of migrants. This is true of almost all state Governments. Last year, just before the lockdown was announced, me and my friend spent almost 30k getting a cab all the way from Chennai to Pune, how much we paid for the cab, how much we bribed the various people just so we could cross the state borders to return home to our anxious families. Thankfully, unlike the migrants, we were better off although we did make a loss. I probably wouldn t be alive if I were in their situation as many didn t. That number is still in the air undocumented deaths  Vaccine issues Currently, though the issue has been the Vaccine and the pricing of the same. A good article to get a summation of the issues outlined has been shared on Economist. Another article that goes to the heart of the issue is at scroll. To buttress the argument, the SII chairman had shared this few weeks back
Adar Poonawala talking to Vishnu Som on Left, right center, 7th April 2021.
So, a licensee manufacturer wants to make super-profits during the pandemic. And now, as shared above they can very easily do it. Even the quotes given to nearby countries is smaller than the quotes given to Indian states

Prices of AstraZeneca among various states and countries.
The situation around beds, vaccines, oxygen, anything is so dire that people could go to any lengths to save their loved ones. Even if they know if a certain medicine doesn t work. For e.g. Remdesivir, 5 WHO trials have concluded that it doesn t increase mortality. Heck, even AIIMS chief said the same. But both doctors and relatives desperation to cling on hope has made Remdesivir as a black market drug with unoffical prices hovering anywhere between INR 14k/- to INR30k/- per vial. One of the executives of a top firm was also arrested in Gujarat. In Maharashtra, the opposition M.P. came to the rescue of the officials of Bruick pharms in Mumbai. Sadly, this strange affliction to the party in the center is also there in my extended family. At one end, they will heap praise on Mr. Modi, at the same time they can t get wait to get fast out of India. Many of them have settled in horrors of horror Dubai, as it is the best place to do business, get international schools for the young ones at decent prices, cheaper or maybe a tad more than what they paid in Delhi or elsewhere. Being an Agarwal or a Gupta makes it easier to compartmentalize both things. Ease of doing business, 5 days flat to get a business registered, up and running. And the paranoia is still there. They won t talk on the phone about him because they are afraid they may say something which comes back to bite them. As far as their decision to migrate, can t really blame them. If I were 20-25 yeas younger and my mum were in a better shape than she is, we probably would have migrated as well, although would have preferred Europe than anywhere else.

Internet Freedom and Aarogya Setu App.

Internet Freedom had shared the chilling effects of the Aarogya Setu App. This had also been shared by FSCI in the past, and recently had their handle being banned on Twitter. This was also apparent in a legal bail order which the high court judge gave. While I won t go into the merits and demerits of the bail order, it is astounding for the judge to say that the accused, even though he would be on bail install an app. so he can be surveilled. And this is a high court judge, such a sad state of affairs. We seem to be putting up new lows every day when it comes to judicial jurisprudence. One interesting aspect of the whole case was shared by Aishwarya Iyer. She shared a story that she and her team worked on quint which raises questions on the quality of the work done by Delhi Police. This is of course, up to Delhi Police to ascertain the truth of the matter because unless and until they are able to tie in the PMO s office in for a leak or POTUS s office it hardly seems possible. For e.g. the dates when two heads of state can meet each other would be decided by the secretaries of the two. Once the date is known, it would be shared with the press while at the same time some sort of security apparatus would kick in place. It is incumbent, especially on the host to take as much care as he can of the guest. We all remember that World War 1 (the war to end all wars) started due to the murder of Archduke Ferdinand.

As nobody wants that, the best way is to make sure that a political murder doesn t happen on your watch. Now while I won t comment on what it would be, it would be safe to assume that it would be z+ security along with higher readiness. Especially if it as somebody as important as POTUS. Now, it would be quite a reach for Delhi Police to connect the two dates. They either will have to get creative with the dates or some other way. Otherwise, with practically no knowledge in the public domain, they can t work in limbo. In either case, I do hope the case comes up for hearing soon and we see what the Delhi Police says and contends in the High Court about the same. At the very least, it would be irritating for them to talk of the dates unless they can contend some mass conspiracy which involves the PMO (and would bring into question the constant vetting done by the Intelligence dept. of all those who work in PMO). And this whole case is to kind of shelter to the Delhi riots which happened in which majorly the Muslims died but their deaths lay unaccounted till date

Conclusion In Conclusion, I would like to share a bit of humor because right now the atmosphere is humorless, both with authoritarian tendencies of the Central Govt. and the mass mismanagement of public health which they now have left to the state to do as they fit. The peice I am sharing is from arre, one of my goto sites whenever I feel low.

8 February 2021

Russ Allbery: Review: The Future of Another Timeline

Review: The Future of Another Timeline, by Annalee Newitz
Publisher: Tor
Copyright: September 2019
ISBN: 0-7653-9212-7
Format: Kindle
Pages: 350
Tess is a time traveler from 2022, a member of the semi-secret Daughters of Harriet who are, under the cover of an academic research project, attempting to modify the timeline to improve women's rights in the United States. Beth is a teenager in suburban Irvine in Alta California, with an abusive father, a tight-knit group of friends, and a love of feminist punk rock. The story opens with both of them at a Grape Ape concert in 1992. Beth is hanging out with her friends, and Tess is looking for signs of a conspiracy to alter the timeline to further restrict the rights of women. The Future of Another Timeline has a great science fiction premise. There are time machines buried in geologically-stable bedrock that have been there since before any current species evolved. The first was discovered by humans thousands of years before the start of the story. They can be controlled with vibrations in the rock and therefore don't need any modern technology to operate. Humanity has therefore lived with time travel for much of recorded history, albeit with a set of rules strictly imposed by these mysterious machines: individuals can only travel to their own time or earlier, and cannot carry any equipment with them. The timeline at the start of the book is already not ours, and it shifts further over the course of the plot. Time travel has a potentially devastating effect on the foundations of narrative, so most SF novels that let the genie of time travel out of the bottle immediately start trying to stuff it back in again. Newitz does not, which is a refreshing change. The past is not immutable, there is no scientific or magical force that prevents history from changing, and people do not manage to keep something with a history of thousands of years either secret or well-controlled. It's not a free-for-all: There is a Chronology Academy that sets some rules for time travelers, the Machines themselves have rules that prevent time travel from being too casual, and most countries have laws about what time travelers are allowed to do. But it's also not horribly difficult to travel in time, not horribly uncommon to come across someone from the future, and most of the rules are not strictly enforced. This does mean there are some things that one has to agree to not think about. (To take the most obvious example, the lack of government and military involvement in time travel is not believable, even given its constraints. One has to accept this as a story premise.) But it removes the claustrophobic rules-lawyering that's so common in time travel stories and lets Newitz tell a more interesting political story about the difficulty of achieving lasting social change. Unfortunately, this is also one of those science fiction novels that is much less interested in its premise and machinery than I was as a reader. The Machines are fascinating objects: ancient, mysterious, and as we learn more about them over the course of the story, rich with intriguing detail. After reading this summary, you're probably curious where they came from, what they can do, and how they work. So am I, after reading the book. The Future of Another Timeline is completely uninterested in that or any related question. About halfway through the book, a time traveler from the future demonstrates interfaces in the time machines that no one knew existed, the characters express some surprise, and then no one asks any meaningful questions for the rest of the book. At another point, the characters have the opportunity to see a Machine in something closer to its original form before aspects of its interface have eroded away. They learn just enough to solve their immediate plot problem and show no further curiosity. I found this immensely frustrating, in part due to the mixed signaling. Normally if an author is going to use a science fiction idea as pure plot device, they avoid spending much time on it, implicitly warning the reader that this isn't where the story is going. Newitz instead provides the little details and new revelations that normally signal that understanding these objects will be a key to the plot, and then shrugs and walks away, leaving every question unanswered. Given how many people enjoyed Rendezvous with Rama, this apparently doesn't bother other readers as much as it bothers me. If you are like me, though, be warned. But, fine, this is a character story built around a plot device rather than a technology story. That's a wholly valid mode of science fiction, and that part of the book has heft. It reminded me of the second-wave feminist science fiction of authors like Russ and Charnas, except updated to modern politics. The villains are a projection forward of the modern on-line misogynists (incels, specifically), but Newitz makes the unusual choice of not focusing on their motives or interior lives. They simply exist as a malevolent hostile force, much the way that women experience them today on-line. They have to be defeated, the characters of the book set out to defeat them, and this is done without melodrama, hand-wringing, or psychoanalysis. It's refreshingly straightforward and unambiguous, and it keeps the focus on the people trying to make the world a better place rather than on the redemption arc of some screaming asshole. The part I was less enamored of is that these are two of the least introspective first-person protagonists that I've seen in a book. Normally, first-person perspective is used to provide a rich internal monologue about external events, but both Tess and Beth tell their stories as mostly-dry sequences of facts. Sometimes this includes a bit of what they're feeling, but neither character delves much into the why or how. This improves somewhat towards the end of the book, but I found the first two-thirds of the story oddly flat and had a hard time generating much interest in or sympathy for the characters. There are good in-story reasons for both Tess and Beth to heavily suppress their emotions, so I will not argue this is unrealistic, but character stories work better for me with more of an emotional hook. Hand-in-hand with that is the problem that the ending didn't provide the catharsis that I was hoping for. Beth goes through absolute hell over the course of the book, and while that does reach a resolution that I know intellectually is the best type of resolution that her story can hope for, it felt wholly insufficient. Tess's story reaches a somewhat more satisfying conclusion, but one that reverses an earlier moral imperative in a way that I found overly sudden. And everything about this book is highly contingent and temporary in a way that is true to its theme and political statement but that left me feeling more weary than satisfied. That type of ending is a valid authorial choice, and to some extent my complaint is only that this wasn't the book for me at the time I read it. But I have read other books with similarly conditional endings and withdrawn characters that still carried me along with the force and power of the writing (Daughters of the North comes to mind). The Future of Another Timeline is not poorly written, but neither do I think it achieves that level of skill. The writing is a bit wooden, the flow of sentences is a touch cliched and predictable, and the characters are a bit thin. It's serviceable writing had there been something else (such as a setting-as-character exploration of the origins and purpose of the Machines) to grab my attention and pull me along. But if the weight of the story has to be born by the quality of the writing, I don't think it was quite up to the task. Overall, I think The Future of Another Timeline has a great premise that it treats with frustrating indifference, a satisfyingly different take on time travel with some obvious holes, some solid political ideas reminiscent of an earlier age of feminist SF, a refreshing unwillingness to center evil on its own terms, characters that took more than half the book to develop much depth, and a suitable but frustrating ending. I can see why other people liked it more than I did, but I can't recommend it. Content warning: Rape, graphic violence, child abuse, gaslighting, graphic medical procedure, suicide, extreme misogyny, and mutilation, and this is spread throughout the book, not concentrated in one scene. I'm not very squeamish about non-horror fiction and it was still rather a lot, so please read with care. Rating: 6 out of 10

5 October 2020

Reproducible Builds: Reproducible Builds in September 2020

Welcome to the September 2020 report from the Reproducible Builds project. In our monthly reports, we attempt to summarise the things that we have been up to over the past month, but if you are interested in contributing to the project, please visit our main website. This month, the Reproducible Builds project was pleased to announce a donation from Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) in support of its goals. ARDC s contribution will propel the Reproducible Builds project s efforts in ensuring the future health, security and sustainability of our increasingly digital society. Amateur Radio Digital Communications (ARDC) is a non-profit which was formed to further research and experimentation with digital communications using radio, with a goal of advancing the state of the art of amateur radio and to educate radio operators in these techniques. You can view the full announcement as well as more information about ARDC on their website.
In August s report, we announced that Jennifer Helsby (redshiftzero) launched a new website to address the lack of reproducibility of Python wheels . This month, Kushal Das posted a brief follow-up to provide an update on reproducible sources as well. The Threema privacy and security-oriented messaging application announced that within the next months , their apps will become fully open source, supporting reproducible builds :
This is to say that anyone will be able to independently review Threema s security and verify that the published source code corresponds to the downloaded app.
You can view the full announcement on Threema s website.

Events Sadly, due to the unprecedented events in 2020, there will be no in-person Reproducible Builds event this year. However, the Reproducible Builds project intends to resume meeting regularly on IRC, starting on Monday, October 12th at 18:00 UTC (full announcement). The cadence of these meetings will probably be every two weeks, although this will be discussed and decided on at the first meeting. (An editable agenda is available.) On 18th September, Bernhard M. Wiedemann gave a presentation in German titled Wie reproducible builds Software sicherer machen ( How reproducible builds make software more secure ) at the Internet Security Digital Days 2020 conference. (View video.) On Saturday 10th October, Morten Linderud will give a talk at Arch Conf Online 2020 on The State of Reproducible Builds in the Arch Linux distribution:
The previous year has seen great progress in Arch Linux to get reproducible builds in the hands of the users and developers. In this talk we will explore the current tooling that allows users to reproduce packages, the rebuilder software that has been written to check packages and the current issues in this space.
During the Reproducible Builds summit in Marrakesh, GNU Guix, NixOS and Debian were able to produce a bit-for-bit identical binary when building GNU Mes, despite using three different major versions of GCC. Since the summit, additional work resulted in a bit-for-bit identical Mes binary using tcc and this month, a fuller update was posted by the individuals involved.

Development work In openSUSE, Bernhard M. Wiedemann published his monthly Reproducible Builds status update.

Debian Chris Lamb uploaded a number of Debian packages to address reproducibility issues that he had previously provided patches for, including cfingerd (#831021), grap (#870573), splint (#924003) & schroot (#902804) Last month, an issue was identified where a large number of Debian .buildinfo build certificates had been tainted on the official Debian build servers, as these environments had files underneath the /usr/local/sbin directory to prevent the execution of system services during package builds. However, this month, Aurelien Jarno and Wouter Verhelst fixed this issue in varying ways, resulting in a special policy-rcd-declarative-deny-all package. Building on Chris Lamb s previous work on reproducible builds for Debian .ISO images, Roland Clobus announced his work in progress on making the Debian Live images reproducible. [ ] Lucas Nussbaum performed an archive-wide rebuild of packages to test enabling the reproducible=+fixfilepath Debian build flag by default. Enabling the fixfilepath feature will likely fix reproducibility issues in an estimated 500-700 packages. The test revealed only 33 packages (out of 30,000 in the archive) that fail to build with fixfilepath. Many of those will be fixed when the default LLVM/Clang version is upgraded. 79 reviews of Debian packages were added, 23 were updated and 17 were removed this month adding to our knowledge about identified issues. Chris Lamb added and categorised a number of new issue types, including packages that captures their build path via quicktest.h and absolute build directories in documentation generated by Doxygen , etc. Lastly, Lukas Puehringer s uploaded a new version of the in-toto to Debian which was sponsored by Holger Levsen. [ ]

diffoscope diffoscope is our in-depth and content-aware diff utility that can not only locate and diagnose reproducibility issues, it provides human-readable diffs of all kinds too. In September, Chris Lamb made the following changes to diffoscope, including preparing and uploading versions 159 and 160 to Debian:
  • New features:
    • Show ordering differences only in strings(1) output by applying the ordering check to all differences across the codebase. [ ]
  • Bug fixes:
    • Mark some PGP tests that they require pgpdump, and check that the associated binary is actually installed before attempting to run it. (#969753)
    • Don t raise exceptions when cleaning up after guestfs cleanup failure. [ ]
    • Ensure we check FALLBACK_FILE_EXTENSION_SUFFIX, otherwise we run pgpdump against all files that are recognised by file(1) as data. [ ]
  • Codebase improvements:
    • Add some documentation for the EXTERNAL_TOOLS dictionary. [ ]
    • Abstract out a variable we use a couple of times. [ ]
  • website improvements:
    • Make the (long) demonstration GIF less prominent on the page. [ ]
In addition, Paul Spooren added support for automatically deploying Docker images. [ ]

Website and documentation This month, a number of updates to the main Reproducible Builds website and related documentation. Chris Lamb made the following changes: In addition, Holger Levsen re-added the documentation link to the top-level navigation [ ] and documented that the jekyll-polyglot package is required [ ]. Lastly, and were transferred to Software Freedom Conservancy. Many thanks to Brett Smith from Conservancy, J r my Bobbio (lunar) and Holger Levsen for their help with transferring and to Mattia Rizzolo for initiating this.

Upstream patches The Reproducible Builds project detects, dissects and attempts to fix as many currently-unreproducible packages as possible. We endeavour to send all of our patches upstream where appropriate. This month, we wrote a large number of these patches, including: Bernhard M. Wiedemann also reported issues in git2-rs, pyftpdlib, python-nbclient, python-pyzmq & python-sidpy.

Testing framework The Reproducible Builds project operates a Jenkins-based testing framework to power This month, Holger Levsen made the following changes:
  • Debian:
    • Shorten the subject of nodes have gone offline notification emails. [ ]
    • Also track bugs that have been usertagged with usrmerge. [ ]
    • Drop abort-related codepaths as that functionality has been removed from Jenkins. [ ]
    • Update the frequency we update base images and status pages. [ ][ ][ ][ ]
  • Status summary view page:
    • Add support for monitoring systemctl status [ ] and the number of diffoscope processes [ ].
    • Show the total number of nodes [ ] and colourise critical disk space situations [ ].
    • Improve the visuals with respect to vertical space. [ ][ ]
  • Debian rebuilder prototype:
    • Resume building random packages again [ ] and update the frequency that packages are rebuilt. [ ][ ]
    • Use --no-respect-build-path parameter until sbuild 0.81 is available. [ ]
    • Treat the inability to locate some packages as a debrebuild problem, and not as a issue with the rebuilder itself. [ ]
  • Arch Linux:
    • Update various components to be compatible with Arch Linux s move to the xz compression format. [ ][ ][ ]
    • Allow scheduling of old packages to catch up on the backlog. [ ][ ][ ]
    • Improve formatting on the summary page. [ ][ ]
    • Update HTML pages once every hour, not every 30 minutes. [ ]
    • Use the Ubuntu (!) GPG keyserver to validate packages. [ ]
  • System health checks:
    • Highlight important bad conditions in colour. [ ][ ]
    • Add support for detecting more problems, including Jenkins shutdown issues [ ], failure to upgrade Arch Linux packages [ ], kernels with wrong permissions [ ], etc.
  • Misc:
    • Delete old schroot sessions after 2 days, not 3. [ ]
    • Use sudo to cleanup diffoscope schroot sessions. [ ]
In addition, stefan0xC fixed a query for unknown results in the handling of Arch Linux packages [ ] and Mattia Rizzolo updated the template that notifies maintainers by email of their newly-unreproducible packages to ensure that it did not get caught in junk/spam folders [ ]. Finally, build node maintenance was performed by Holger Levsen [ ][ ][ ][ ], Mattia Rizzolo [ ][ ] and Vagrant Cascadian [ ][ ][ ].
If you are interested in contributing to the Reproducible Builds project, please visit our Contribute page on our website. However, you can get in touch with us via:

27 July 2020

Russ Allbery: Summer haul

I'm buying rather too many books at the moment and not reading enough of them (in part because I got back into Minecraft and in part because I got a bit stuck on a few difficult books). I think I've managed to get myself unstuck again, though, and have started catching up on reviews. 2020. It's kind of a lot. And I'm not even that heavily affected. Katherine Addison The Angel of the Crows (sff)
Marie Brennan A Natural History of Dragons (sff)
Kacen Callender Queen of the Conquered (sff)
Jo Clayton Diadem from the Stars (sff)
Jo Clayton Lamarchos (sff)
Jo Clayton Irsud (sff)
Clifford D. Conner The Tragedy of American Science (nonfiction)
Kate Elliott Unconquerable Sun (sff)
Rory Fanning & Craig Hodges Long Shot (nonfiction)
Michael Harrington Socialism: Past & Future (nonfiction)
Nalo Hopkinson Brown Girl in the Ring (sff)
Kameron Hurley The Stars Are Legion (sff)
N.K. Jemisin Emergency Skin (sff)
T. Kingfisher A Wizard's Guide to Defensive Baking (sff)
T. Kingfisher Nine Goblins (sff)
Michael Lewis The Fifth Risk (nonfiction)
Paul McAuley War of the Maps (sff)
Gretchen McCulloch Because Internet (nonfiction)
Hayao Miyazaki Nausica of the Valley of the Wind (graphic novel)
Annalee Newitz The Future of Another Timeline (sff)
Nick Pettigrew Anti-Social (nonfiction)
Rivers Solomon, et al. The Deep (sff)
Jo Walton Or What You Will (sff)
Erik Olin Wright Stardust to Stardust (nonfiction) Of these, I've already read and reviewed The Fifth Risk (an excellent book).

30 March 2020

Shirish Agarwal: Covid 19 and the Indian response.

There have been lot of stories about Coronavirus and with it a lot of political blame-game has been happening. The first step that India took of a lockdown is and was a good step but without having a plan as to how especially the poor and the needy and especially the huge migrant population that India has (internal migration) be affected by it. A 2019 World Economic Forum shares the stats. as 139 million people. That is a huge amount of people and there are a variety of both push and pull factors which has displaced these huge number of people. While there have been attempts in the past and probably will continue in future they will be hampered unless we have trust-worthy data which is where there is lots that need to be done. In the recent few years, both the primary and secondary data has generated lot of controversies within India as well as abroad so no point in rehashing all of that. Even the definition of who is a migrant needs to be well-established just as who is a farmer . The simplest lucanae in the later is those who have land are known as farmers but the tenant farmers and their wives are not added as farmers hence the true numbers are never known. Is this an India-specific problem or similar definition issues are there in the rest of the world I don t know.

How our Policies fail to reach the poor and the vulnerable The sad part is most policies in India are made in castles in the air . An interview by the wire shares the conundrum of those who are affected and the policies which are enacted for them (it s a youtube video, sorry)
If one with an open and fresh mind sees the interview it is clear that why there was a huge reverse migration from Indian cities to villages. The poor and marginalized has always seen the Indian state as an extortive force so it doesn t make sense for them to be in the cities. The Prime Minister s annoucement of food for 3 months was a clear indication for the migrant population that for 3 months they will have no work. Faced with such a scenario, the best option for them was to return to their native places. While videos of huge number of migrants were shown of Delhi, this was the scenario of most states and cities, including Pune, my own city . Another interesting point which was made is most of the policies will need the migrants to be back in the villages. Most of these are tied to the accounts which are opened in villages, so even if they want to have the benefits they will have to migrate to villages in order to use them. Of course, everybody in India knows how leaky the administration is. The late Shri Rajiv Gandhi had famously and infamously remarked once how leaky the Public Distribution system and such systems are. It s only 10 paise out of rupee which reaches the poor. And he said this about 30 years ago. There have been numerous reports of both IPS (Indian Police Services) reforms and IAS (Indian Administrative Services) reforms over the years, many of the committee reports have been in public domain and in fact was part of the election manifesto of the ruling party in 2014 but no movement has happened on that part. The only thing which has happened is people from the ruling party have been appointed on various posts which is same as earlier governments. I was discussing with a friend who is a contractor and builder about the construction labour issues which were pointed in the report and if it is true that many a times the migrant labour is not counted. While he shared a number of cases where he knew, a more recent case in public memory was when some labourers died while building Amanora mall which is perhaps one of largest malls in India. There were few accidents while constructing the mall. Apparently, the insurance money which should have gone to the migrant laborer was taken by somebody close to the developers who were building the mall. I have a friend in who lives in Jharkhand who is a labour officer. She has shared with me so many stories of how the labourers are exploited. Keep in mind she has been a labor officer appointed by the state and her salary is paid by the state. So she always has to maintain a balance of ensuring worker s rights and the interests of the state, private entities etc. which are usually in cahoots with the state and it is possible that lot of times the State wins over the worker s rights. Again, as a labour officer, she doesn t have that much power and when she was new to the work, she was often frustrated but as she remarked few months back, she has started taking it easy (routinized) as anyways it wasn t helping her in any good way. Also there have been plenty of cases of labor officers being murdered so its easier to understand why one tries to retain some sanity while doing their job.

The Indian response and the World Response The Indian response has been the lockdown and very limited testing. We seem to be following the pattern of UK and U.S. which had been slow to respond and slow to testing. In the past Kerala showed the way but this time even that is not enough. At the end of the day we need to test, test and test just as shared by the WHO chairman. India is trying to create its own cheap test kits with ICMR approval, for e.g. a firm from my own city Pune MyLab has been given approval. We will know how good or bad they are only after they have been field-tested. For ventilators we have asked Mahindra and Mahindra even though there are companies like Allied Medical and others who have exported to EU and others which the Govt. is still taking time to think through. This is similar to how in UK some companies who are with the Govt. but who have no experience in making ventilators are been given orders while those who have experience and were exporting to Germany and other countries are not been given orders. The playbook is errily similar. In India, we don t have the infrastructure for any new patients, period. Heck only a couple of states have done something proper for the anganwadi workers. In fact, last year there were massive strikes by anganwadi workers all over India but only NDTV showed a bit of it along with some of the news channels from South India. Most mainstream channels chose to ignore it. On the world stage, some of the other countries and how they have responded perhaps need sharing. For e.g. I didn t know that Cuba had so many doctors and the politics between it and Brazil. Or the interesting stats. shared by Andreas Backhaus which seems to show how distributed the issue (age-wise) is rather than just a few groups as has been told in Indian media. What was surprising for me is the 20-29 age group which has not been shared so much in the Indian media which is the bulk of our population. The HBR article also makes a few key points which I hope both the general public and policymakers both in India as well as elsewhere take note of. What is worrying though that people can be infected twice or more as seems to be from Singapore or China and elsewhere. I have read enough of Robin Cook and Michael Crichton books to be aware that viruses can do whatever. They will over time mutate, how things will happen then is anybody s guess. What I found interesting is the world economic forum article which hypothesis that it may be two viruses which got together as well as research paper from journal from poteome research which has recently been published. The biggest myth flying around is that summer will halt or kill the spread which even some of my friends have been victim of . While a part of me wants to believe them, a simple scientific fact has been viruses have probably been around us and evolved over time, just like we have. In fact, there have been cases of people dying due to common cold and other things. Viruses are so prevalent it s unbelivable. What is and was interesting to note is that bat-borne viruses as well as pangolin viruses had been theorized and shared by Chinese researchers going all the way back to 90 s . The problem is even if we killed all the bats in the world, some other virus will take its place for sure. One of the ideas I had, dunno if it s feasible or not that at least in places like Airports, we should have some sort of screenings and a labs working on virology. Of course, this will mean more expenses for flying passengers but for public health and safety maybe it would worth doing so. In any case, virologists should have a field day cataloging various viruses and would make it harder for viruses to spread as fast as this one has. The virus spread also showed a lack of leadership in most of our leaders who didn t react fast enough. While one hopes people do learn from this, I am afraid the whole thing is far from over. These are unprecedented times and hope that all are maintaining social distancing and going out only when needed.

31 March 2014

Russell Coker: Links March 2014

Typing Animal wrote an interesting article about the dangers of stainless steel in a medical environment [1]. Apparently silver and copper are best due to the oligodynamic effect. Instead of stainless steel drinking bottles they should sell silver plated drinking bottles for kids, I m sure that lots of parents would pay extra for that. Mark Kendall gave an interesting TED talk about a replacement for the hypodermic syringe in vaccinations [2]. His invention can reduce the cost of immunisation while increasing the effectiveness and avoiding problems with people who have a needle phobia. The TED blog has an interesting interview with Will Potter about the use of the war on terror to silence journalists and the invention of the term eco terrorism for non-violent people who are politically active [3]. The TED blog has an interesting article by Kate Torgovnick May about designing products for sustainability [4]. It links to an insightful TED talk by Leyla Acaroglu about some of the complex issues related to sustainability [5]. Manoush Zomorodi wrote an informative article about How one college went from 10% female computer-science majors to 40% [6]. Slate has an interesting article by Jamelle Bouie showing the way that support for capital punishment in the US is linked to racism [7]. The Southern California Public Radio blog has an interesting article by Josie Huang about Suey Park and her success in using twitter to oppose racism [8]. Andrew Solomon wrote an insightful interview with the father of Adam Lanza for the New Yorker [9]. Waleed Aly wrote an insightful article about George Brandis attempt to change the Racial Discrimination Act specifically to allow Andrew Bolt to be racist [10]. He describes it as the whitest piece of proposed legislation I ve encountered which is significant in a country with as much racism as Australia. Really we need stronger laws against racism, there should be no right to be bigoted. A German Court has ruled that non commercial licenses don t permit non-commercial organisations to re-publish material [11]. This seems bogus to me, I d be happy to have my non-commercial licensed work published by a non-commercial publishing organisation just as long as they don t run adverts on the page. Professors Woolley and Malone wrote an interesting article about their research into group performance, apparently having more women in a group improves the collective intelligence of a group, but having smarter men in the group doesn t [12]. Susie Hill wrote an article about the SPARX computer game that is designed to treat adolescent depression [13]. They are working on a rainbow edition for GLBT kids and a version for Maoris. Unfortunately their web site is down right now and the version at says that it s currently only available to participants in a clinical trial. Tim Chevalier wrote an insightful article explaining why people who campaign against equality shouldn t be given senior positions in corporations [14]. Zeynep Tufekci wrote an insightful article about how French High Theory and Dr. Seuss can help explain gender problems in geek communities [15]. Hannah Levintova wrote an informative article for Mother Jones about how the US based hate group the World Congress of Families incites homophobic violence in Russia [16]. Josh Sanburn wrote an article for Time about people in the Deep South who claim to be Christian giving away guns to encourage people to attend church [17]. This is the same part of the world where people who claimed to be Christian used their religion as an excuse for supporting slavery. I m quitting bourbon, too much evil comes from that part of the world and I m not buying anything that comes from there.

11 October 2013

Petter Reinholdtsen: Oslo community mesh network - with NUUG and Hackeriet at Hausmania

Wireless mesh networks are self organising and self healing networks that can be used to connect computers across small and large areas, depending on the radio technology used. Normal wifi equipment can be used to create home made radio networks, and there are several successful examples like Freifunk and Athens Wireless Metropolitan Network (see wikipedia for a large list) around the globe. To give you an idea how it work, check out the nice overview of the Kiel Freifunk community which can be seen from their dynamically updated node graph and map, where one can see how the mesh nodes automatically handle routing and recover from nodes disappearing. There is also a small community mesh network group in Oslo, Norway, and that is the main topic of this blog post. I've wanted to check out mesh networks for a while now, and hoped to do it as part of my involvement with the NUUG member organisation community, and my recent involvement in the Freedombox project finally lead me to give mesh networks some priority, as I suspect a Freedombox should use mesh networks to connect neighbours and family when possible, given that most communication between people are between those nearby (as shown for example by research on Facebook communication patterns). It also allow people to communicate without any central hub to tap into for those that want to listen in on the private communication of citizens, which have become more and more important over the years. So far I have only been able to find one group of people in Oslo working on community mesh networks, over at the hack space Hackeriet at Husmania. They seem to have started with some Freifunk based effort using OLSR, called the Oslo Freifunk project, but that effort is now dead and the people behind it have moved on to a batman-adv based system called meshfx. Unfortunately the wiki site for the Oslo Freifunk project is no longer possible to update to reflect this fact, so the old project page can't be updated to point to the new project. A while back, the people at Hackeriet invited people from the Freifunk community to Oslo to talk about mesh networks. I came across this video where Hans J rgen Lysglimt interview the speakers about this talk (from youtube): I mentioned OLSR and batman-adv, which are mesh routing protocols. There are heaps of different protocols, and I am still struggling to figure out which one would be "best" for some definitions of best, but given that the community mesh group in Oslo is so small, I believe it is best to hook up with the existing one instead of trying to create a completely different setup, and thus I have decided to focus on batman-adv for now. It sure help me to know that the very cool Serval project in Australia is using batman-adv as their meshing technology when it create a self organizing and self healing telephony system for disaster areas and less industrialized communities. Check out this cool video presenting that project (from youtube): According to the wikipedia page on Wireless mesh network there are around 70 competing schemes for routing packets across mesh networks, and OLSR, B.A.T.M.A.N. and B.A.T.M.A.N. advanced are protocols used by several free software based community mesh networks. The batman-adv protocol is a bit special, as it provide layer 2 (as in ethernet ) routing, allowing ipv4 and ipv6 to work on the same network. One way to think about it is that it provide a mesh based vlan you can bridge to or handle like any other vlan connected to your computer. The required drivers are already in the Linux kernel at least since Debian Wheezy, and it is fairly easy to set up. A good introduction is available from the Open Mesh project. These are the key settings needed to join the Oslo meshfx network:
Protocol / kernel modulebatman-adv
Channel / Frequency11 / 2462
Cell ID02:BA:00:00:00:01
The reason for setting ad-hoc wifi Cell ID is to work around bugs in firmware used in wifi card and wifi drivers. (See a nice post from VillageTelco about "Information about cell-id splitting, stuck beacons, and failed IBSS merges! for details.) When these settings are activated and you have some other mesh node nearby, your computer will be connected to the mesh network and can communicate with any mesh node that is connected to any of the nodes in your network of nodes. :) My initial plan was to reuse my old Linksys WRT54GL as a mesh node, but that seem to be very hard, as I have not been able to locate a firmware supporting batman-adv. If anyone know how to use that old wifi access point with batman-adv these days, please let me know. If you find this project interesting and want to join, please join us on IRC, either channel #oslohackerspace or #nuug on While investigating mesh networks in Oslo, I came across an old research paper from the university of Stavanger and Telenor Research and Innovation called The reliability of wireless backhaul mesh networks and elsewhere learned that Telenor have been experimenting with mesh networks at Gr nerl kka in Oslo. So mesh networks are also interesting for commercial companies, even though Telenor discovered that it was hard to figure out a good business plan for mesh networking and as far as I know have closed down the experiment. Perhaps Telenor or others would be interested in a cooperation? Update 2013-10-12: I was just told by the Serval project developers that they no longer use batman-adv (but are compatible with it), but their own crypto based mesh system.

18 October 2010

Benjamin Mako Hill: Redefining "Realistic"

When talking about free culture or free software, many people suggest that they would love to support free models, but that they don't see how to make it all work. Until they have an alternate model in front of them, they cannot bring themselves to argue for a more ethical alternative. I disagree with this approach. Instead, I say, "this is the world I want to live in and, even though I don't know exactly how to get to there from here, I'm going to refuse to settle for anything short of this ideal." Most people dismiss such thinking as "impractical" and "unrealistic." I think most people are being unimaginative. Robot jockeys are one recent illustrative reason, among many, that I feel comfortable taking this position. Some background is necessary for those that are unfamiliar with the example. A decade ago, several Gulf emirates used thousands of young boys from Sudan and South Asia as jockeys for camel racing. Human rights groups campaigned against the practice and suggested that these boys were at sometimes held as slaves and intentionally underfed to keep their weight low. Despite criticism, camel racers resisted moving away from young boys as jockeys. If they moved to heavier adults instead of young boys, they reasoned, the camels would be much slower. Of course, they were right. But they were being unimaginative in the alternatives they were considering. As the young jockeys became a increasingly unjustifiable public relations disaster for the states that supported it, law-makers in several Gulf states gave in to calls from UNICEF and others and created laws to outlaw the practice. Within three years of UAE passing strict laws against child jockeys, Swiss engineers, funded by racers desperate for an alternative, had created the first robotic camel jockey. Within several years these jockeys were lighter, cheaper, more responsive to the owner, and well on their way to being more effective than any young boy. When forced, by law and by an ethical prerogative, to come up with an alternative to young boys, racers created a solution that was superior, along nearly every axis, to the system they had fought to keep. Although the costs to society of proprietary software cannot be compared to slavery and abuse, the basic same pattern of solution-seeking can be seen in the example of free software. Early free software advocates suggested that most programmers would likely need to take a paycut. As it turned out, vibrant and successful economic models to support free software have supported a large and growing free software industry. But we have free software business models only because a small group of principled individuals refused to settle for what they knew, came up with creative ethical business models that "just might work," and put their own paychecks on the line to try them out. As open source has shown, some of these creative solutions offered models superior to what we had before. In the world of software development, free software redefined "practical" and "realistic." One can think of solving human problems as like searching for the highest point in hilly terrain in thick fog. It's easy to get stuck on the top of the first little hill you walk up (i.e., a local maximum) and then conclude you can never do better. If we refuse to compromise and force ourselves to leave that first little hill, chances are pretty good we'll find a "higher" peak. Of course, it is also possible that we will find the global maximum or the best possible solution to a given problem. In those cases, any change will mean a sacrifice. But when dealing with most most social and legal dilemmas, there are enough variables involved that this seems very unlikely. Indeed, most big problems can be thought of as having many interacting dimensions -- and only some of these will be ethical concerns. In other words, most social problems are more like the problem of child camel jockeys than they are like trying to transcend the laws of physics. Business models and laws for the regulation of technology and knowledge are extremely complicated human creations. Do we really think we cannot create ethical systems to compensate cultural creators that are at least as good as what we have now? If we never force ourselves to be "impractical" and "unrealistic", we will never find out.

23 May 2008

Biella Coleman: Women and Science Fiction

Rianna and Annalee Newitz have pretty much said what needs to be said: women do like SF.

Biella Coleman: Women and Science Fiction

Rianna and Annalee Newitz have pretty much said what needs to be said: women do like SF.

21 February 2008

Tore S. Bekkedal: A very cute bug

Today, in a fit of fool-Hardy-ness, I upgraded one of my computers to the most recent Ubuntu development release, codename Hardy Heron. Amongst the several other bugs I encountered (the kernel not booting was a rather noticable one…) was this adorable little bug in tracker. (Some background info: Tracker is a file alteration monitor - like Apple’s Spotlight, and …whatever the Vista knockoff is called. ImageMagick is an image processing utility, invoked with the command “convert”.) So - picture this situation: Tracker is searching along, and encounters a graphics file. Being a graphics file, Tracker realizes it wants a thumbnail. Tracker calls convert. Convert creates a temporary file. Tracker notices a file has been created. It notices that this file is an image file, and therefore wants a thumbnail. Tracker calls convert… You can guess what happens from here on. :) This lovely bug reminds me quite a lot of a story I read a while ago which had been uploaded by Eric Smith to his wonderful PDP-6/PDP-10 resource and folklore website, “I/O Deja Vu, A Farce in One Act“. Worth a read. Update: Within ten minutes, the very helpful Saleem Abdulrasool (”compnerd” on IRC) helped me debug it and comitted a change to upstream, so it’s fixed in the next release (expected in a few days). Filed a bug on the Ubuntu package. I love FOSS. :)

19 March 2006

Clint Adams: This report is flawed, but it sure is fun

5C9A5B54Esesse(Ps,Gs) 2341
3AFA44BDDweasel(Ps,Gs) 1342